In the past the first overall draft pick in any draft in the NFL was paid like a legit veteran with a proven track record. Under the new Collective Bargaining agreement, which has yet to be approved but likely will be sooner rather than later, first round draft picks will be paid like below average starters until they have a track record that justifies higher salaries. It is a huge win for NFL team owners who ill no longer have to mortgage the future of a bad football team on one player’s contract.
For instance, Cam Newton was the first overall pick of the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft. He will get a contract worth about 22 million dollars over four years. Depending on how the final CBA reads, the Panthers will likely have a fifth year option worth around 14 million dollars. That means Newton stands to make 36 million dollars or so in his first five years in the league. At some point, he may be worth more than that, but at least for now the Panthers do not have to eat a large dollar contract on an unproven player.
For comparisons sake Sam Bradford the first overall pick in the 2010 draft got a six year deal worth about 78 million dollars, and 50 million of that was guaranteed. The Rams would be on the hook for 50 million dollar whether or not Bradford worked out as a legit NFL starter, and that was why this rule had to be a part of the new CBA. Bad teams, which get the higher picks in the draft, could no longer afford these types of contracts.
The new CBA does leave a little room for negotiating and Newton likely will still wind up making more money than second overall pick Von Miller, but no longer will the long term health of bad teams be put at risk by a high round draft pick.
•The Business of the NFL